What are Collaboration Retros and why are they valuable when creating great PM-designer partnerships?

Laura Eiche
Pipedrive R&D Blog
4 min readDec 19, 2022

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This is the final article of a series of 3 on the topic of how we in Pipedrive start, build and grow partnerships between product designers and product managers.

First, let’s take a step back.

When a new product designer and product manager in Pipedrive start working together, they are advised to do what we call the Dream Team exercise. It consists of questions to answer and share with each other, which in turn helps the duo set their collaboration out for success. Read more about it here.

When they start their first project in Pipedrive, they’re advised to kick it off with a Collaboration contract to set expectations and make a battle plan for the project.

However, we’ve learned that in a fast-paced SaaS environment, changes happen quite often and the partnership’s goals and agreements can age quickly.

This is why our team started doing bi-monthly Collaboration Retros to stay on the same page, adapt to changes and improve our work together as product designers and product managers.

Collaboration Retros: bimonthly sessions between the product manager and product designer

The goal of Collaboration Retros is to stay in sync, adapt to changes and improve collaboration in a fast-changing environment.

There are a ton of ways to run Collaboration Retros. It doesn’t really matter which option you go for, as long as you do them.

In Pipedrive, I’ve run Collaboration Retros in Miro as a small workshop (like the one in this article) and have had simple one-to-one calls too, which are also sufficient.

Feel free to use this Collaboration Retro Miro template created by Pipedrivers

✏️ Quick guide to Collaboration retros

📅 When: Bimonthly
🙌 Who: Product designer and product manager
⏰ Time: ~1h

Step 1: Pulse check

Share how you feel about the collaboration, but also about things overall — in the company and your life.

  • What’s been going on in your life, in your career?
  • What has changed recently? What has impacted you?

Step 2: The good, the bad, the discussion

Share what’s been going well and what has held you back. Leave room for discussion points.

  • If we think about our collaboration and our projects, what’s been going well?
  • What’s been holding us back?
  • What would you like to discuss? (Just say it!)

Step 3: Conclusions and actions

Now that we’ve shared all these things, what can we do about them?

  • What did we learn from this? What do we want to take with us?
  • What could be the one thing you can try to make your collaboration even more effective? Write action points down.

A decision will only succeed if you commit to it with clear action points.

2 reasons why to run Collaboration retros

🌔 1: It strengthens your connection

Your internal and mutual goals, agreements and ways of working can change. Retros act as checkpoints to listen to one another and share things that you normally wouldn’t share.

The key to a smooth, long-lasting collaboration between a product designer and a product manager is mutual support.

But to know how to support, you’ll also need to know about each other’s internal and external struggles, fears and motivations as they change.

Some examples that might impact a PM-designer collaboration:

  1. Internal work-life changes: i.e. health and family topics might impact your working hours, focus or motivation
  2. Where they’re moving in their career: i.e. If one member of the partnership plans to grow into a higher or completely different role, some tasks might not be of interest to them anymore, or they might want to take on more responsibility
  3. Changes in the company: i.e. changes to upper management, business priorities or company strategy can also affect how a designer’s or PM’s workday looks

🚀 2: You’ll find more ways to collaborate effectively

Retros help identify what’s lacking and how you could make your collaboration better.

Some aspects of your collaboration might not be working as smoothly as they should be. That’s a good sign! Feel free to revisit your Dream Team agreement and change things up.

Run 1h bi-monthly Collaboration Retros to strengthen your PM-Designer collaboration

In a nutshell, your collaboration needs to adapt to all possible changes. The best way to make sure it remains strong even in the roughest of waters is to:

  • 🗓 Schedule recurring Collaboration Retros
  • ✍️ Reflect and share (do the exercise)
  • 🚀 Adapt and improve (agree on action points and change your rituals if needed)

Psst.. Are you also fascinated by collaboration and workshopping? Let’s connect on LinkedIn!

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Laura Eiche
Pipedrive R&D Blog

Senior Product Designer at Pipedrive // Visual storyteller and workshopper